Reviewed by Rebecca Sheriff
I was looking forward to attending the Russian Nutcracker performance at The Forum in Binghamton this past Sunday (Dec. 4). The Nutcracker is a holiday tradition conveying the magic of the season, and it had been several years since I’d participated in this holiday event. Sunday’s audience included many ballet enthusiasts and little girls dressed in holiday attire and a few more casual theater-goers. (A side note: In my humble opinion, jeans are not suitable attire for the theater, even for a matinee.)
Upon arriving I learned that they had “run out” of programs, which was disappointing and made me realize how much I appreciate being able to have background information prior to watching the performance. I was not familiar with the Rafael Grigorian Ballet Theater and would have liked to have notes on the company’s particular interpretation of the ballet.
Overall the performance conveyed the holiday feeling I was looking for. The costumes were colorful and festive, and there was a rather large cast mostly consisting of children who seemed well rehearsed and comfortable on stage. But, as the first act continued, I began to feel a little underwhelmed. There was a lot more stage acting than technical dancing than I remembered from past performances I have attended. I found myself looked forward to the remaining act for the excitement I remembered from The Nutcracker.
The rest of the performance was well performed by competent dancers, but the excitement and drama never built up for me. I had a hard time with the flow of the performance and didn’t feel that the little girl’s dream was conveyed. Each section also felt segmented, with a bare stage and sometimes lengthy silence between portions. At one point, the wrong music cue was played and restarted. (Another side note: The performance would have been enhanced by live rather than prerecorded Tchaikovsky. It is a shame that one of the local orchestras couldn’t have participated in the performance.)
The ballerina’s pointe technique was impressive particularly during the famous “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies,” although the stage seemed a little crowed and not large enough to accommodate all of the dancers. Overall, the choreography felt a bit understated and subdued, but, while it was not what I was expecting, it made for a relaxing afternoon, and I am grateful that Broome County had the opportunity to enjoy this holiday tradition.